A General Assembly ethics committee found that Sen. Ed Reilly broke with the standards of the body when he told a constituent he was planning to pull a bill on which they both had worked because she donated to his opponent’s campaign.
The constituent, Pam Jeter, received word of the decision Tuesday in a letter from the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. The committee sent “a letter of education and advice” to the senator, then dismissed the complaint after deciding further proceedings were not necessary.
Reilly declined to comment on the matter.
Jeter said she had been working on Senate Bill 43 with the Republican senator, who represents District 33, since early 2019, when she reached out to him about an issue in her community. Her Olde Severna Park neighborhood is bisected by Route 648. There are crosswalks to help pedestrians get from one side of the neighborhood to the other, but they’re unsafe, Jeter said.
“There’s always traffic and cars are speeding and there’s no really good signage. And there’s zero speed enforcement,” Jeter said. “People have been hit by cars by that crosswalk, or a car will come to a stop and the car behind them can’t stop in time so they end up rear-ending.”
Reilly, Jeter and a few neighbors starting working on the bill, which would authorize the placement of speed cameras in the area on Route 648 between Hoyle Lane and Cypress Creek Road. It wasn’t what Jeter and the neighbors were hoping for, which was flashing lights, but it was something, Jeter said.
Jeter and the neighbors testified to the Judicial Proceedings Committee on Jan. 18 and got positive feedback from the legislators. Her neighbor, Wendy Widmann, recalled an experience for the committee when she was hit by a car and knocked onto the road while biking across one of the crosswalks.
A few days after the presentation, Jeter got a call from Reilly.
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“He was like, ‘Good job presenting, but I want to let you know that I’m going to pull the bill,’ ” Jeter said. “’I was looking through my campaign finance records and noticed that you’re supporting my opponent and so why would I work for you if you’re actively working against me?’ ” Then he hung up on her, she said.
Jeter gave two donations to Democrat Dawn Gile’s campaign, one for $200 on Jan. 2 and one for $100 on Jan. 4 on behalf of her mother-in-law, who had computer issues when she tried to donate herself. Reilly, Gile and Republican Stacie MacDonald are all running for the District 33 Senate seat.
Jeter was shocked by Reilly’s response, she said, assuming he’d wanted to work on the bill for the sake of public safety and to help his constituents, no matter their political activity.
“I thought no senator should be expecting their constituents to donate to their campaign for support,” Jeter said.
She emailed the Judicial Proceedings Committee members telling them about the call. They did not respond, she said. She then filed an official complaint with the ethics committee on Jan. 25, which was reviewed Feb. 21.
Ultimately, Reilly didn’t pull the bill. It was heard by the Judicial Proceedings Committee Jan. 18 and received an unfavorable vote Feb. 4 by an 8-3 margin. Reilly is not on the committee and did not vote on the matter. Because of the unfavorable vote, the bill was killed and will not move forward.
“There was just a lot of energy that went into this and for it to implode this way ...” Jeter said. “I just couldn’t even believe it.”